Post workout recovery tips so you can spend less time being sore and more time working towards your goals!
Workout recovery can include a lot of things. Being sore post workout and having DOMS from a workout is a Catch 22! No one likes being sore but most of us love knowing we’ve worked our muscles outside of their usual comfort zone but also want to recover asap so we can get on with our next workout!
Making these post workout recovery tips part of your lifestyle will help with your post workout recovery. Which will improve your training and reduce the amount of time you need between workouts. So you can keep crushing your goals and working off your quarantine cheats!
I remember the 1st few days back at ballet school after a Summer of not taking classes all day everyday and the intense calf pain. Soaking in long epsom salt baths at night, covering myself in tiger balm, stretching and ibuprofen and then working through the pain as rest and recovery was not an option. Thankfully, bodybuilding taught me a few new post workout recovery tricks (more about that on the Glamour and Gains Podcast).
How to decrease recovery time after workout
Is anyone else sorer than they’ve ever been during quarantine? I definitely am. Not because I’m working out more. But because I’m working out differently including lots of hills and spinning. Which means I’ve been doing more of these post recovery techniques than I normally would.
Active recovery and nutrition is the biggest part of that for me but I’m also trying to be ok with nothing activity wise besides stretching. Until my body and mind feels ready and just recovering and being patient so that I can come back stronger.
Yes, you can let your body heal at it’s own speed. But when you recover more quickly between workouts, you don’t need as much time between workouts and can workout at a higher level the next time you train and get back to working out sooner.
While there’s no complete cure for post workout soreness, delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) or whatever else you want to call feeling stiff and sore post workout, there are things we can do to help speed up recovery.
8 ways to help your workout recovery
So simple but how often do you skip it? Dynamic stretching (never static) before working out and static stretching post workout goes a long way to help prevent stiffness and seizing up post workout.
Stretching helps break the cycle which goes from soreness to muscle spasm to contraction and tightness by keeping everything loser and more limber. I tend to do a pre and post workout stretch and then an evening stretch while I’m watching TV. As I’ve got older, I’m definitely feeling the need for this more.
2. Epsom Salt Baths
I often forget about this one but it’s so effective plus it makes you give yourself a little self-care time. Soaking in a warm epsom salt bath works to soothe tired muscles and reduce swelling as it allows magnesium and sulfates to be readily absorbed into skin. It’s a safe, easy and cheap workout recovery option.
How to do a Epsom Salt Bath
The Mayo Clinic recommends adults use 2 cups of Epsom salt per gallon of warm water. You can also just try adding 2 cups of Epsom salt added to your bathtub of water. Soak for at least 15 minutes in warm not hot water which can increase rather than reduce swelling. Remember to moisturize afterwards as the salts can be drying.
Warning: check with your doctor first if you have low blood pressure as hot water can temporarily lower blood pressure.
I got introduced to this when I started bodybuilding as it was on my plan to take it before breakfast (for max absorption) and before bed (to help with recovery and prevent muscle breakdown while I sleep). I’ve been taking it ever since and swear by it. It’s also great for boosting immunity which we could all do with right now.
Glutamine is an amino acid/protein building block that works by stimulating muscle growth, preventing muscle breakdown and significantly improving recovery time. I notice a definite improvement in recovery from when I’m taking it at home to when I don’t take it when I’m traveling.
Glutamine can also have the added bonus of helping stomach ulcers, leaky gut, improving IBS by balancing mucus production, boosting metabolism and cellular detoxification, and helping curb cravings for sugar and alcohol. It’s a bit of an all round wonder product.
The best glutamine powder
I’ve tried lots of different ones but Naked’s L-Glutamine Powder is the one my husband and I are using right now. It’s pure glutamine (no fillers), blends really easily and even he commented it has no taste or after taste. The finely micronized powder is designed to maximize absorption.
4. Protein Shake or High Quality Source of Protein
The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) is 0.36 grams per pound for a sedentary person but if you’re reading this I’m guessing this isn’t you. A common recommendation for gaining muscle is 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.
Protein helps with post workout soreness recovery as it helps your body build and repair muscle tissues. It’s the micro-tears in muscle fibers which leads to sore muscles so helping repair those micro tears and repair the muscle tissues is a big part of the recovery.
Another trick I learned body building was to eat every 2-3 hours to enhance muscle protein synthesis.
The resulting heightened anabolism is a natural byproduct that helps improve recovery. bodybuilding.com
If you’re struggling to get enough protein, protein powders are an easy solution. There are different types of protein powders depending on the absorption rate you’re looking for eg fast absorption (whey isolate/hydrowhey) post workout and slow absorption (casein or blends) before bed.
You can use this protein calculator to figure out quickly how much protein you need a day:
5. Active Recovery
Yep, you can totally just do nothing the next day if you’re sore or you can do some active recovery. Low-intensity exercise that’s active enough to increase blood flow and help minimize the buildup of lactic acid in the muscles but gentle enough to allow your muscles to heal. Such as stretching, a gentle steady state, low impact cardio like walking, or yoga or some self-myofascial release with a foam roller or trigger point roller. I prefer the trigger point roller which is a lot more intense, so start gently with this unless you want to end up covered in bruises; try not to get a bit carried away!
If you feel guilty doing nothing, especially now we’re home more and often feel like a lump that just shifts from one room to the other. Try new workouts that will have you sorer than ever been. It’s ok to spend some days doing no exercise just epsom salt baths and stretching and others are doing active recovery, depending on what your body and mind needs.
How does active recovery work? Active recovery works by getting the circulation going to reduce lactic acid buildup in muscles and eliminating toxins. If you struggle to keep your exercise routine this will also help you maintain it as sometimes 1 day off can turn into 2, into 3, etc.
6. Muscle relief gel or lotion
I’ve tried a few different pain relief gels and lotions from tiger balm to Biofreeze to ibuprofen gel. My newest cruelty-free find is Herb-X X-Jow analgesic anti-inflammatory pain relief gel which is NSAID free. I was gifted this to try and it was perfect timing as I’ve been trying to stay away from anything with ibuprofen since the Corona Virus update (fact or fiction, I’d rather not chance it).
My cats are obsessed with the smell of it but to me it smells a little funky and more like celery! At first I thought I was mad but I just googled and translated all of the latin terms in their ingredients into English and the 2nd one “angelica archangelica” is celery! Not so crazy after all!
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What anti-inflammatory ingredients to look for workout recovery
It’s different from the other pain relief sprays and gels I’ve used in that it combines western and Chinese medicine. Rather than just being menthol it has Turmeric (famed for its inflammatory properties), Saffron, Frankincense, Myrrh and a whole lot of other Chinese herbs but and is made in the USA. You’ll get the same heating sensation you get with Biofreeze but it also has a lot more active ingredients and a little goes a long way.
The first time I used it was after a 10 mile mountain hike when my knees starting acting up and my glutes and calves were super tense. It’s now my go-to instead of popping a pain killer as I’ve been a lot more sore since quarantine and being forced to change my workouts up. It runs at $22.95 on Amazon (or $39.95 for 2) for 4 oz. I’d recommend seeking doctors advice before using this if you’re pregnant due to the herbal ingredients.
“Healing empowered by nature” . If you want to check HerbX.inc out on Instagram
7. Hydrate for workout recovery
Our bodies are 60% water and obviously when we sweat we lose water. So it’s really important to keep hydrated so everything stays lubricated from our digestion to our organs, muscles and joints so they can work efficiently. Bonus: “protein synthesis relies on muscles being well hydrated to start the recovery process, which can help reduce muscle soreness.” bodybuilding.com
I got into the habit of drinking a gallon of water a day when I was competing and it’s a habit that stuck fast as everything including my skin feels better for it. Plus there’s less chance of me mistaking thirst for hunger. Right now’s a really good time to create your water drinking habits as we’re all close to bathrooms!
If you’re not sure how much water you should be drinking, here’s an easy water intake calculator.
So your body can heal. It’s one of the easiest things we can do for our recovery and overall health. It’s not just about how long you’re asleep but your quality. I read the book Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival a long time ago to get some tips for better sleep as I’ve always struggled with it (both falling asleep and staying asleep).
We all know to avoid caffeine close to bedtime, the recommendation is no closer than 6 hours before but longer if you’re sensitive to caffeine. I try and have my last cup around 1pm and then switch to decaf tea and sleepy time tea before bed which doesn’t make me groggy in the morning. Try sweetening it with liquid stevia to bring out the flavor of the herbal tea.
Meditation can work for some people and is worth trying if you struggle to switch your brain off or need help to unwind. I’ve interviewed a few experts on meditating: the what, why and how if you want to learn more.
Minimize Blue Light Exposure
One of the easiest things you can do to improve the quality of your sleep is to minimize blue-light exposure from screens during the hour before bedtime. I don’t know if these glasses work or not but I got them as they’re super cheap from Amazon . You can just return them if you don’t like them. We don’t have a TV in our bedroom as we try and keep all screens and electronics besides our phones out of the bedroom.
Other tips and tricks for a better night’s sleep is to never bring work into the bedroom so that you only associate the bedroom with sleep. This includes not checking emails on your phone, putting your phone on silent and trying to keep electronics out of the room like TV’s.
Honestly, I’ve tried everything, I just don’t think I’m built for sleep. We even went so far as to have black out blinds installed in our bedroom and bathroom to try and do everything we could to get me to sleep better.
What are your favorite post workout recovery methods?
I’ve linked a lot of other articles in here for further reading but is there something I’ve started to cover in this fitness blog you want to know more about? I want this to be a useful resource for you so message me anytime or drop a comment below.
If you found this or any article on here useful, I’d love it if you’d consider sharing it with your friends to help them too. Thanks so much!
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Eve Dawes is a Blogger, Podcaster, Mrs. England World 2020, a WBFF Pro Diva, SAG-AFTRA actress, NASM certified Personal Trainer, Founder of Dawes Custom Cosmetics and GlamourandGains.com. Eve's also the host of BFF (beauty, fitness & fashion) segment on Spill The Tea Live! The show for British Expats. Eve has over 15 years experience in the fashion world, is an avid traveller and cruelty-free beauty advocate.